Mini barracks with sea view decks in Cayucos

December 11, 2022

Editor’s Note: The following series, “Life in Radically Gentrifying Cayucos by the Sea,” to be posted biweekly includes the notes, thoughts, and opinions of an original American voice: author Dell Franklin. 

Franklin’s memoir, “Life On The Mississippi, 1969,” is currently on Amazon.


I drove to Southern California for Thanksgiving and visited my sister and family in an affluent and leafy area a mile from the beach. While there, my sister, brother-in-law and I went for long walks. And what jumped out at me almost immediately were the homes, and how different they were from what has been going up in Cayucos over the past ten or twenty years, like a toadstool crop of creative putrefaction.

As in Cayucos, this area is populated by people with an exorbitant amount of money to spend freely on architects to draw up original appearing homes with all the luxurious trimmings.

A couple houses on our walk expressed aerodynamic curves, like space ships and sleek landscapes out front. A two-story Spanish influenced villa-like home blended in with grill work of another that remind me of walking down Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Another really unique one-story had two large Bonsai trees facing each other across a cobblestone patio with park benches.

The Bonsai were immaculate. There was a peacefulness to this creation, like a zen garden.

As we walked, the feeling I received from this neighborhood was one of people building their dream homes with an eye for individuality and their own yearning for art, like having a Renoir or Van Gogh on your wall. Maybe these homes succored happiness, because everybody waved and smiled when you passed them walking their dogs or working in yards or just driving by.

Then I thought about Cayucos, and the five or so homes that have gone up in my neighborhood over the past couple years—mini barracks with sea view decks. Boxes with balconies. No charm. No sense of the artistic, but of people with huge money and no taste hiring architects adhering to this tastelessness, pounding out these glossy packing crates with a wiggle here and a waggle there, but otherwise something that literally takes over an entire street and hovers over what is left like mindless bullies.

Most shocking? Cal Poly has one of the great architecture schools in the country! Can’t one or two of these big-moneyed people from wherever (maybe the valley) find somebody from the great alumni to build a structure akin to what I witnessed down south?

The recently constructed bumptious square of nothingness below me takes up a huge lot on which once stood lemon trees and a little white house lodging people who played music and held parties. The square, which eliminated trees and looms over the entire block, is empty most of the time and shows no sign of life, and cut off my view of Morro Rock and my neighbor Jack, three doors down.

One door over, on the next street, squats its twin (same owner, same builder, same architect) in another neutral color, and it is empty possibly 95% of the time, except on 4th of July.

Two blocks over on my street, where more beautiful towering trees were cut down, sits a two’story rectangle with a small deck and is possibly one of the top three blandest structures in Cayucos. It is so bland it fails to offend or outrage. I have never observed a soul visiting or living in this structure.

Currently, not too far down the road, something is going up that a couple neighbors have agreed is perhaps the ultimate architectural abomination.

I ran into a neighbor, who actually owns perhaps the only stylish, newly built home on the entire grid, and he asked me what I thought of the new beast going up.

“What do you think?” I asked him.

He is new to the neighborhood I’ve lived in for 25 years. I could see he did not know enough about me to be opinionated.

“Well…” he hesitated.

“It’s a fucking monstrosity,” I ventured.

He sighed. “Yes.” He nodded. “A monstrosity.”

On a tiny lot, the monstrosity goes straight up three stories, towering over everything and everybody, a rectangle upside down, with two rows of balcony and nothing out front. It is not yet close to being finished.

Often, tourists walk down this street and always halt before the burgeoning monstrosity and point and talk. I wonder what they think. My good friend Ethan, a carpenter and lifelong home builder, stood on my deck and admitted that in over thirty years of building homes, this one stands at the top echelon of obnoxious drabness.

But, but, well, I suppose the owners see the monstrosity as beautiful. Maybe Cayucos-by-the-Sea, unlike where my sister lives, or, say Carmel-by-the-Sea a hundred miles north, is destined to mar its uncommon and unparalleled beauty with block-like barracks and their sea view sundecks.

Like those things one witnesses when passing King City on Highway 101.

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obviously not as monied as you judge, Dell.

and maybe they LIKE barracks.

So, this blog is just an ad for your book?

Have you considered that maybe all those people could afford to build was a box? Is your blog designed to promote gentrification? If so, I will raise a complaint against it.

I wonder how you would feel about my plan to actually live in a box in Cayucos?

As the old saying goes – “beauty is in the eye of the beer holder “. The vrbo type nightly and “30 day” rentals have pushed values so far up in Cayucos and most other coastal or desireable spots that it is killing the vibe . Affordability for long term rent or purchase is dead and long gone. Where they really want to put us worker bees is in the 5 story rectangle 1970’s Soviet bloc style stuff with bike “parking” that is sprouting up in SLO.

Meanwhile, in Los Osos we’re taking “illegally permitted” jumbo guesthouse builds to Court before our one and only aquifer is damaged further.

Take a Listen to Hometown Radio! Los Osans for Good Governance sues SLO County.

I have stayed in quite a few barracks over the years, from Camp Roberts to Fort Jackson to Camp Albertshof at Hohenfels, Germany to Afghanistan, Kosovo, Kuwait and some I’ve forgotten. Not one of them had a deck with a sea view. My little B-Hut in Afghanistan was a tinderbox which would have gone up in flames in three minutes (we had to watch a video during in-processing). But I get it. I grew up in SLO and that town no longer exists. Times change, as John Wayne says in Big Jake.

This same problem plagues many places, including Cambria, which has become a community of McMansions and starter castles which mostly stand empty whilst taking up the whole lot, blocking any hope of a view and entirely displacing what wildlife once roamed those spaces. Gone are just about all the smaller homes that were actually affordable to an average person on a fixed or smaller budget. Gone are the communities they held. Gone are the connections to the community and its wellbeing that those who actually lived here as contributing members cultivated.

But, you know, those who are the “haves” who can provide excess for themselves, often choose to do just that. Driving up housing prices for both those who would seek to acquire their own home or even simply to rent a roof over their heads has become a “good investment”. It is also to be noted that when someone is caught in an investigation of a criminal nature, especially a financial one, real estate is much harder to seize than a bank account. Which (a matter of record) explains at least a portion of this kind of investments.

As a result, many who have lived and worked here for a significant portion of their lives and even built this place have been forced to relocate. Often at a stage in life when such an upheaval is not only financially onerous, but socially devastating as well. The very people who helped to make it such a desirous place to live are forced elsewhere to accommodate people who don’t even actually live here. Some of us are managing, at least presently, to hold on to our well-earned place to call home. When we see each other in passing or at some gathering, we smile an especially warm kind of smile, to see that this other person is also managing to hold on in the face of escalating challenges to their decades long residence.

Besides being an extraordinarily supportive little society, we are in an especially rich, environmentally sensitive area. In the long run, people who do not actually live here, even if some of them were inclined, are in a poor position to protect what makes this place special or the values of true community, for ourselves, all the wildlife, and those who come after us. In the long run, if we don’t all come together and figure out how to prevent this loss, all will be losers.

Anyone else been to the top of Black Hill in MB looked out onto the town and seen the bright white stucco building with red tile roofs, right in the middle of a standard home neighborhood? Sticks out like a sore thumb. Went up 25 years ago. This is nothing new.

Dell if you would of done your research you would of realized that the County, at the time being led by Supervisor Bud Laurent and Planning Director Alex Hinds pushed the Small Scale Neighborhood design criteria down the community’s throats, what you are railing about is what is allowed by these onerous rules!!!

What’s even more laughable is that those are your people Dell, nobody should be able to have a nice house, a box and a balcony is good enough:)